10 Questions: Samuel Harjanne
- What is a perfect morning to you?
My perfect morning includes waking up without an alarm clock in my home bed with my partner. I can lie in bed for as long as I want to and eat breakfast (lunch) whenever I want to. Also, it’s nice waking up knowing that today I have lots of interesting theatre-oriented tasks to do. So alternatively, my perfect morning is waking up to an alarm clock and excitedly leaving for work directing a musical I love.
- How did you get into musical theatre?
I was first introduced to the world of musical theatre through operas. I was a high boy soprano as a kid, and I got to play one of the three boys in the Finnish National Opera’s production of The Magic Flute in Helsinki in 1998. Soon I auditioned for Les Misérables at the Helsinki City Theatre, and I got to play Gavroche in the original Finnish cast in 1999. It was then that I realised musical theatre is my thing and that I would spend my life working with it. One way or another.
- How would you describe your acting style?
There is not that much uniqueness in my acting style, really. I believe in organic acting – meaning that I aim to say all my lines and do all my things as believably as possible (depending on the genre of the performance, of course). The hardest thing is not to stop performing when a character starts to sing. I try to keep on acting instead of focusing on vocal techniques or voice qualities. I aim to stay alive on stage, listening and seeing what happens around me. As I do in real life as well.
- As an award-winning international theatre director, you have directed musical theatre productions all around Europe, what is your artistic superpower?
My artistic superpower? Hah. There is no such thing, really. I am extremely passionate about musicals and my work. That inspires others, I hope. I also want to create an atmosphere where my team and cast can be themselves without fear or uncomfortable vibes. When people around me feel great, that makes me feel great, and we reach better results. I also read music very well. I understand what the composer has written, and what he/she most likely is trying to tell through the music. Then I try to interpret that with my actors. Is that a superpower?
- You have said that teaching and coaching has been a big part of your life – what is your style of management like?
When it comes to me managing my own life, I am extremely specific and organised. My schedules are almost always accurate, I’m always on time, and I respect everyone’s use of time. After all, time is our most important currency. When it comes to my teaching, I aim to facilitate all the good qualities I see in a person, and I do all I can to guide him/her towards new tools or routes in order for him/her to realise or learn something new.
- As you have performed voice-dubbing roles in the Finnish language for foreign media, do you have a favourite Finnish word?
I do have a favourite word, yes. It is actually lämpimämpi (warmer). I find it funny – the way it sounds and the way it’s written. Even the way it feels in your mouth when you say it.
- What has been the biggest challenge in your career so far?
As a production, directing one of the biggest musicals of all time, Les Misérables, for the biggest theatre in Estonia in 2017. That was a challenge I never expected to have. It was a gigantic show, and our production had more than 65 people on stage each night. That was a challenge, but I couldn’t be happier to have accepted that challenge for it made me realise I can manage big productions in a country where I do not speak the language at all. Also, working on Billy Elliot, with 39 children in the cast, has been a challenge from the viewpoint of the kids. But perhaps my biggest challenge really is to rely on my skills and not to worry too much about the future and live in the moment.
- What role does your Finnish heritage play in your life?
My Finnish heritage is often showcased in my honest way of communicating. I am a pretty straightforward guy, although my profession has made me quite clever with how to deliver messages to certain kind of people. But even still, I’m very honest, and I cannot stand false promises or messages people really do not mean. I also love nature. It inspires me – even now I’m planning on going for a walk to get inspired while listening music from my future productions. And, of course, the Finnish education has made me speak almost perfect English.
- What are some of your personal and/or professional goals for the future?
Since 2014, my life has been very international, and I want to keep it that way. I love working in Finland, but there is a big world out there and I want to experience it. I would love to direct musical theatre in some countries where it is not that well known or in countries that have a completely different culture when it comes to art or making theatre. A bit like Peter Brook and his intercultural work – only with musicals. And ultimately, my biggest goal is to direct a musical on Broadway. I do not know whether that is realistic or not, but I have to keep on chasing that dream or I will never achieve it.
- What one word or phrase do you want people to associate with your name?
Photo: Kate Scott